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Leading Hungarian Writer Péter Esterházy Reveals Battle With Pancreatic Cancer

Ferenc Sullivan 2015.10.05.

Péter Esterházy, one of the most popular and internationally best-known figures of contemporary Hungarian literature, has announced that he is battling pancreatic cancer.

The 65-year-author disclosed his illness in a letter addressed to the Göteborg International Book Fair, which was published in the Friday edition of Hungary’s liberal literary journal Élet és Irodalom. The letter was read out by Mr. Esterházy’s Swedish publisher Svante Weyler at the book fair’s opening ceremony on 24 September.

Last week, Mr. Esterházy excused himself from attending the book fair, where he was supposed to appear as a special guest to showcase Hungarian literature, saying in a letter that he was preoccupied by pancreatic cancer. In that letter, he said he would not talk publicly for now about the pancreatic cancer which was “seeking to take over my life”, but that he would elaborate at a later date.

His fellow writer Krisztián Grecsó, writing in the magazine Élet és Irodalom, confirmed his illness, saying: “If there is a God, or even if there is not, Péter must recover.”

Mr. Esterházy is the scion of high nobility. One of his best-known works is Celestial Harmonies (2000), a novel about his family’s history during the Austro-Hungarian era when their estate was home to people like Austrian composer Joseph Haydn.

A sequel to that book is Revised Edition (2002), which documents how author confronted the discovery that his father had been a communist-era informant. He is also the author of The Transporters (1983), A Little Hungarian Pornography (1984), and The Book of Hrabal (1990).

Both in Hungary and abroad, Mr. Esterházy is also known as a top critic of the Orbán government, claiming in a recent interview to a German news magazine that the cabinet is “harming Hungary”.

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photo: Péter Komka/MTI